Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Losing a Friend

One night in 1989 we were eating dinner when there was a knock at the door. There mum who first answered it found the girls from a few houses up with a box of their grandma's cat's kittens. They thrust a kitten into my mum's arms and said "you'll take one won't you Mrs Smith?". Everyone around the dinner table agreed that this would be a good idea, and so Tabby came into our lives. For a number of years it was possible to see a family resemblance in a number of the neighbourhood cats, as their owners had also received that knock at the door. A feisty cat, all claws and teeth at that young age (Some of her siblings were even more fowl tempered), she soon showed her sweet nature with her favourites (me included), and in later years she would actively seek out a comfortable lap to sit on.

Tabby's name derives from Tabitha, itself a play on the word tabby. (With all that long white fur we always thought there was some Persian in her blood somewhere) At the time we got her we also had a Budgie called Sam, and so we unintentionally carried on the Bewitched theme for pet names.

This morning Tabby passed away aged a little over 19 years old, a fair age for a cat. Over the past few days she became weak and went off her food. Last night it became apparent that she probably would not last the night. We made up a comfy bed near her food bowls and said goodnight. This morning we found her lying peacefully in one of her favourite sleeping spots on the carpet in the dining room.

R.I.P Tabby

A recent photo of Tabby, November 2008.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clocking Off

It was a real pain and yet so easy to get to work today. I didn't have to worry about buying/validating tickets, and there was hardly anyone around. Thanks for the free ride Mrs Kosky that was a nice present. I felt like I was going to work on a Saturday, as the street where my workplace is was unusually quiet. The only crowds I noticed were at the fish shop, where everyone seemed to be buying prawns.

I only ended up doing about an hour and halfs worth of work, but we were told to charge a full day in our timesheets anyway, no complaints there. At 11:30 we had an informal lunch with chicken and salads, unfortunately it ran out all too quickly and many people who turned up late missed out altogether. Someone came to the rescue and ordered Pizzas.

I spent about half an hour playing a game on the computer after lunch. I was playing Portal: the flash version which is quite a good version of the full PC version of Portal. Eventually I decided enough was enough and I left work for the last time this year, but still filled in a days worth of time in my time sheet. (naughty? No we were instructed to do so. Who am I to argue?)

On the way home I finished off my Christmas shopping at Westfield Doncaster, and found it strangely relaxed. No one was really in a hurry or in much of a frenzy, it was good to see. While there I bought my last present, for my mum. I aslo bought myself a small present. Need for Speed Undercover for the Wii. I also bought 2 six packs of imitation Corona from Safeway, and four limes. The limes were unusually cheap, the ticketed price was 99 cents each, but they turned out at 50 cents each. Looking at my docket, I think the fruit shop I went to must give out random discounts. I was lucky.

From there I got the bus home and have just finished wrapping all the presents for tommorow. I think I will now go and play with the present from myself, before wrapping it up and giving it to myself again tommorow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Festivus Drinks

I am actually amazed /ashamed I can remember so much. I only nearly vommited once....

Friday night was Christmas drinks with some of the people from work. Only six of us made it, well not everyone was invited, it's a bit of an exclusive club actually. One went early leaving 5 of us. We started upstairs at the Corner in Richmond. That was an interesting place, and for a while I thought I had violated the dress code for not wearing my cowboy hat, fairy wings or checked shirt (in any combination). There must be a tear in the fabric of space and time at this place, because pretty soon there was a line for the men's toilets, but there was none for the women's, it was really strange.

Hopping in a taxi in Swan Street we made our way to the Imperial in Spring Street, me and my mates traditional pre/post footy pub. More general drinking antics occurred. There we found people parading around a cardboard cut out of their company's CEO, I got to shake his hand. The only bad thing to happen was someone knocked a beer over onto the chips, so there were soggy beer flavoured.

At some point we left and headed down Bourke towards that fake brittish pub on the corner of Exhibition. It was full and they wouldn't let us in, or somethign like that. So instead we went to the Portland Hotel in Russel Street. It was here that I revealed to my colleagues just how bad I am at pool, even sober I'm no good, but this was just embarrassing.

On the way home I stopped off for some much needed late night nourishment at Hungry Jacks and still managed to make it to Flinders Street in time for the train, which was waiting patiently for me. I found a nice quiet seat on my own and proceded to listen my iPod. Then out of nowhere a large group of very happy, yet very drunk people descended on my oasis. AF ew of them were very rowdy, singing "Let's dance to Joy Division" by The Wombats (the rest looked rather under the weather). It was at this stage that one of the girls commented to me "you can write about this in your blog". Unless she reads my blog and recognised me from my photo on my blog, she doesn't know how correct she was. After they all got off at Westgarth, it went quiet again.

So there you go you go girl on the train, you got a mention on my blog.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Is GPS a lost Cause?

Full article here. It is the first couple of lines that interest me though...

Drivers have been warned not to rely solely on GPS navigation units to find their way around after two Norwegians following their GPS's instructions were shot at by suspected drug traffickers in a Rio de Janeiro slum.

It is believed the drivers had set out to find a bottle shop in downtown Oslo.

So they set out in Oslo to find a bottle shop and their GPS led them to a Rio de Janeiro slum? That is one long drive, no doubt they passed numerous bottle shops on the way. I'd be taking that GPS unit back to the store for a refund.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Green for the company

The company I work for has recently gone "green", they created a series of "webinars" for staff on climate change and various other environmental issues. A further part of this drive has been to change all the screen savers on company computers to be a blank screen, and to encourage people to turn screens and computers off overnight. I admit that I used to leave my computer on overnight and just turn the screen off, at weekends I used to turn it off. Now it gets turned off every night. I think most people do turn their machines off every night, except if they need to run a process overnight, which in my area does happen quite frequently.

Soon all PCs are to be replaced with laptops, or so I gather from the questionnaire that was circulated recently. Sure they are more energy efficient, but I actually chose a desktop. The current desktops we have seem to struggle (well mine does) and I doubt a laptop will be much better. I suspect I will get one anyway due to the companies one size fits all IT policy. Either way it doesn't bother me.

The thing is, I see so many things wrong in my workplace in terms of energy wastage (and wastage in general) it's not funny. The building I work in heats up too much, in both Winter and Summer. There is something seriously wrong with the air conditioning and no matter how many times they fix it, it never gets any better. Being a modern (probably mid-late 1990s) glass and concrete building I suspect it is not properly insulated or ventilated either. On our floor we have large floor to ceiling windows facing north and west, which are definitely tinted, but I'm not sure if they are double glazed. Either way, it gets really hot and bright in the warmer part of the year. The only covering are some flimsy Venetian blinds to that have very poor insulating properties. What would make the biggest difference in my opinion is better insulating blinds and the ability to open windows for some natural ventilation.

As for water wastage, we have toilet cisterns that continually run even though a plumber has been in to change the washers and things. Some kind person printed out some signs telling us how to flush them so they don't run. Of course these instructions don't work, and I usually end up fiddling around until it stops. Most people just walk out without checking. On one occasion I resorted to turning off in one of the cubicles. Soon enough our sign writter had put a sign up saying there was no water and that a plumber was on the way. I think I went too far, but surely the tap is the first thing you would check if there is no water?

Really the whole building needs better maintenance, and even renovation as it is quite poorly designed.

Building Bridges

Click to make bigger

Last Saturday I went and had a look at the new rail bridge that is being built over the Merri Creek between Westgarth and Clifton Hill. In the photo above you can see the extent of the new bridge so far. They had just installed the second girder the day before, and at time of writting it is expected the third girder should have been put into place. Behind you can see the brick piers of the existing bridge.

The aim of the project is to duplicate the rail line between Clifton Hill and Westgarth, which means building a new single track bridge next to the existing one. Progress is going well so far, so much so that Government is claiming that it will open 1 year early (I read a quote of Kosky saying this the other day but can''t find an article or press release at the minute). The cynic in me says that they (the government) add generous padding to projects like this on purpose just so they can make such claims to look good. But yes, after nothing happening for the first 8 months of the year work is now speeding along fine.

This machine was running up and down the track
with the old bits of rail and putting them in a neat pile.

On Saturday the Epping and Hurstbridge lines were shut down to allow some track work to take place at Clifton Hill and Westgarth. At the Westgarth end they installed a new set of points, while at Clifton Hill they removed the centre track, which ran between the 2 platforms, as it was not used very often. Also they appeared to connect the overhead to the new stanchions, which have been getting installed lately.

New points being installed at the end of the new bridge at Westgarth.

Bits and pieces at Westgarth.

During the shutdown they also took the opportunity to install some news sleepers on the curve leading from Dennis station to Westgarth station.

Workers installing new sleepers.

Dumping the old sleepers into a truck.

While this was happening buses were replacing trains on the Epping line between Epping and Victoria Park, and between Heidelberg and Victoria park on the Hurstbridge line. From my experience the train-bus and bus-train transfers were quite smooth, there was an over abundance of staff at loading points and they even created a temporary bus station at Victoria Park. For the Heidelberg run there was the option of an all stations or an express bus. It is amazing that they can plan for special occasions like this so well, and yet day to day operations are ordinary at best.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A practical use for LEGO

LEGO Mindstorms that is.

Flushing the toilet...

Less practical, but really cool is using an iPhone and web app to control a LEGO robot.